A swimming pool at altitude to inspire Olympic dreams. Today, at the CONI Olympic Preparation Centre (CPO) in Livigno, the new 50-metre pool was inaugurated, which will allow Italian swimmers to better prepare for the forthcoming international challenges, starting with Paris 2024.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by the CONI General Secretary, Carlo Mornati, the Mayor of Livigno, Remo Galli, the IOC member, Federica Pellegrini, who presented Livigno’s new mascot called “Spolly”, the President of the Tourist Promotion and Development Company, Luca Moretti, the Head of the Olympic Preparation Office, Alessio Palombi, the national swimming team, the Olympic snowboard champion Michela Moioli, the track cycling Olympians Elia Viviani and Filippo Ganna, the European 10,000 metres runner Yemaneberhan Crippa and athletes from other disciplines linked to the Valtellina resort such as Jole Galli (skicross), Maurizio Bormolini (snowboarding) and Giacomo Bormolini (telemark). Also present were Livigno’s councillor for sport, Marina Claoti, the Undersecretary for Sport and Youth in the Region of Lombardy, Lara Magoni, and, joining remotely, Antonio Rossi, City integration coordinator in Lombardy for Milano Cortina 2026 and kayak Olympian.
The CPO, the result of the memorandum of understanding signed in 2022 between CONI and the Azienda di Promozione e Sviluppo Turistico di Livigno, joined those at Acqua Acetosa (Rome), Formia and Tirrenia in October. And as of today, it officially has an Olympic swimming pool, which, built in the new space known as the ‘Federica Pellegrini Swimming Area’, complements the existing 25-metre pool. This is yet another tool at the disposal of Italian sport, further enhancing a centre that is unique in Italy and allowing relevant Olympic and High Level Preparation athletes to train at altitude, on the highest plateau in Europe.
“This is a moment that really goes back a long way; it is a journey that has lasted 15 years,” stressed CONI Secretary General Carlo Mornati. “There are so many Olympic medallists here today. What has been established here is significant. Livigno is a very important community and we have welcomed what it has offered to us over the years. The swimming pool is the icing on the cake and allows us to plan future Olympics, including the summer Olympics, with a certain confidence, because this is the only centre in Europe with similar characteristics. This facility is a strong demonstration of the synergy that can exist between institutions when there is willingness. I wish to thank everyone, and even the presence of Milano Cortina 2026 here is significant, as we are fast approaching the big date: everything that the Foundation is doing together with Livigno will be fundamental for the success of the Games. I want to wish all the athletes the best of luck: we are in the middle of the competitive season, there are the qualifications for the Games, the European Championships, the World Championships. We hope to see many of you in Paris.”
“The Olympic Preparation Centres,” added Mornati, “exist in symbiosis with the Institute of Science and Sports Medicine, which supports so many federations. The idea, the final frontier, is to be able to have a permanent centre here in Livigno.”
“This is a great thrill for us,” admitted Livigno Mayor Remo Galli. “This structure had become something of a burden for Livigno, we are on a common path with the citizens and the institutions;
everyone has helped us to give an identity to the structure, which is now a reference point for our athletes. I wish to thank CONI and Mr Mornati, who has helped us from the beginning, as has the Region of Lombardy. This pool is for young people; we want to allow them to follow their passions.”
The new pool, disinfected with low-chlorinated hypochlorite, produced on site using electrolytic salt-transformation technology to reduce chlorination waste products and consequently improve the swimmers’ well-being, has 12 competition model starting blocks (6 on each side), with a 5-position track start platform. Two movable decks have been positioned to allow the pool to be used in different modules, which can be modified in minutes. To improve safety, the pool was also equipped with the Angel Eye system, with 20 underwater cameras that record images of the swimmers in real time and identify dangerous situations. In the event of an alert, a signal is sent to the pool attendants via smartwatch technology.
Underwater cameras are also used for technical analysis of the swimmers. Coaches are equipped with tablets on which they can view images of the swimmers directly from the edge of the pool to analyse their technique in order to improve their performance, or they can view the videos from a large monitor located on the edge of the pool or also upload the images to a USB stick and view them later. The underwater analysis can be carried out over the entire length of the pool, from the starting dive to the turns to the finishing sprint.
“We have achieved another amazing goal, the result of people who really believed in a project. In front of me I have many champions and a beautiful place like Livigno, among the top ten in Europe as a winter sports destination. It is fitting that the Olympic Preparation Centre is here, because Livigno will be the protagonist of the Milano Cortina Games. With this pool and with Federica Pellegrini’s backing, no one will be able to beat us,” said Lara Magoni, Undersecretary for Sport and Youth in the Region of Lombardy.
“This project’s origins go back a long way – years ago we started dreaming of being able to do something for top athletes. It is really nice to be able to train in Livigno: the facilities are fantastic, as is the welcome. Congratulations to the municipal administration who believed in this project and also to CONI,” said Antonio Rossi.
Livigno’s CPO is located in the Centro Sportivo Aquagranda, which, with its 10,000 square metres, is one of the largest sports and wellness facilities in Europe. The Centre has been used for years for the training camps and programmes of several Italian National Teams, but in the last year it has become even more of a reference point for CONI and its National Sports Federations, thanks to the agreement signed between the Italian National Olympic Committee and the Azienda di Promozione e Sviluppo Turistico di Livigno, which allows the organisation of meetings and training sessions at the sports and accommodation facilities of the municipality of Livigno at special rates.
The facility, located at an altitude of 1,816 metres, can host various disciplines, including athletics, football, winter sports, triathlon and, of course, swimming, which, with the construction of the Olympic pool, will also be able to prepare athletes for challenges in full-length pools.
And it was Livigno – the Olympic venue for the 2026 Milano Cortina Winter Games, underlining its multidisciplinary nature – that was the base for Federica Pellegrini’s successes in her last seasons, including the two world championship golds in the 200 freestyle, won in Budapest 2017 and Gwangju 2019.
“I am really thrilled. This winter we met to inaugurate the Centre without the pool being ready, today instead we can launch the first 50-metre pool at altitude. It’s really a privilege, an honour to be here to see one of the jewels in Italy’s crown, after having seen high-altitude pools all over the world. It will be a key facility for the athletes. And my relationship with Livigno will also continue: this will be the home of my Academy for the next two years. I am really proud to see the growth of such a facility and a sports city like this,” stated Federica Pellegrini.
During the ceremony, the Municipality of Livigno and the Sporting Club awarded scholarships to the students/athletes who distinguished themselves over the winter season.
CONI and FIGC athletic trainer, Claudio Donatelli, explained the importance of this CPO at altitude which – from cycling to swimming – contributed to six medals for Italia Team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Every athlete knows what it takes to improve: great training and a good environment, which can stimulate changes at a physiological and blood level. Being in the mountains helps greater production of red blood cells, meaning we have more oxygen in our muscles. But the most important thing that I have discovered in the dynamic and welcoming environment of Livigno, is the psychological element: building volume in the mountains helps develop resilience, the ability to overcome difficulties,” declared Donatelli.
The “Road to Paris 2024”, will increasingly pass through Livigno.